Eleanor Roosevelt to Nora Stanton Barney

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Nora Stanton Barney

25 November 1946 [New York City]

Dear Miss Barney:

I am sorry you have been misinformed on my attitude for equality for women. I do not oppose it and I have never opposed it in the United States.

The confusion arises because I do not support the Equal Rights Amendment. I believe we still need the existing protective laws for women in industry. I know full well of the various state laws which are discriminatory to women. I believe we should work to have such laws repealed in the states. It takes two thirds of the states to ratify an Amendment and that means a lot of work.

Some day the women in industry will not need protective legislation5 and then they can work with the women in professions for an Equal Rights Amendment. This has nothing to do with the political rights which were under discussion. We have those.

                                      Very sincerely yours,


1. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) opposed the Fifteenth Amendment, arguing in 1869 "that not another man should be enfranchised until enough women are admitted to the polls to outweigh those already there" (NAWMP; Foner, 256).

2. ER did not immediately embrace women suffrage, later writing that she "had never given the question serious thought" and admitting that she only did so after FDR announced his support for it while campaigning in 1911. "I realized that if my husband were a suffragist I probably must be one too." As she later recalled, she "could not claim to have been a feminist in those early days." As Cook illustrates, however, although ER did not join a specific suffrage organization, "she never uttered a public word in opposition to it. And after 1911 she counted herself a suffragist. Still, her belated and vague support for suffrage set her apart from the ardent activists and so many of her future allies and friends" (Cook, vol. 1, 195).

3. See n3 Document 120.

4. MD, 18 November, 1946.

5. Historian Alice Kessler-Harris has outlined the divide over "protective" versus "discriminatory" labor legislation. For instance, many labor laws aimed at "providing safe and clean working conditions, minimizing health hazards, putting a floor under wages, [and] shortening hours." These laws usually applied to all laborers. But some legislation that regulated things like seating or ventilation in the workplace, in effect, barred women from certain types of jobs altogether. These laws can be seen as both protective and discriminatory. In addition, ER is referring to state laws that discriminated specifically against women, such as those regulating income taxes, divorce, domestic violence, and inheritance (Kessler-Harris, Out to Work, 180-81 (quote on 180); Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equity, 6-7).

Eleanor Roosevelt and Conscientious Objectors, Part 2

November 27, Albon Mann of the Committee for Amnesty for All Objectors to War and Conscription wrote ER urging her support for their plea to President Truman to grant a Christmas 1946 amnesty to all conscientious objectors still in prison and requesting that she support their efforts in her column. Although she did not discuss their appeal in My Day, she did write the president on their behalf.1

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Eleanor Roosevelt to Nora Stanton Barney